The physicist W.F.G. Swann was a pioneer in high energy physics and the study of cosmic rays. Climbing the academic ranks from the University of Sheffield to the Universities of Minnesota, Chicago, and Yale, Swann was selected as the first director of the Bartol Research Foundation of the Franklin Institute in 1927, and remained there until his retirement in 1959. An able administrator and excellent mentor, he was best known for his popular work on the new physics, The Architecture of the Universe (1934) and for his research on cosmic rays. Avocationally, he was an accomplished cellist and in addition to performing, he helped organize and support the Swarthmore Symphony Orchestra and other local groups. He died at his home in Swarthmore in 1962.
The Swann Papers consist of 41 linear feet of correspondence, class notes, lectures, and photographs documenting Swann's career at the Bartol Research Foundation from 1927 until the end of his life. The collection is wide ranging, touching on atmospheric electricity, particle acceleration, atomic bomb defense, atomic energy, electrets, electrodynamics, magnetism, music, quantum theory, radiation, relativity and Einstein, science and civilization, stratospheric flights (by balloon and airplane), thermodynamics, psychic science, and wave mechanics. It is particularly rich for study of the history of cosmic ray research and the Bartol Institute, and for study of the popularization of modern physical sciences.